Fossil Fuels green jobs vs keystone xl pipeline jobs

Published on March 12th, 2013 | by Tina Casey


Keystone XL Pipeline Jobs Vs. 110,000 Green Jobs

March 12th, 2013 by  

A new survey from the green business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) has identified more than 300 new clean energy and transportation projects, all announced  in 2012, that are expected to create 110,000 green jobs in the U.S. The news should help perk up opponents of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, who have had a rough time of it after a State Department report downplayed the project’s environmental impact. Impacts or not, the new survey demonstrates that the green jobs sector can easily replace all of the potential Keystone XL Pipeline jobs that would disappear if the project is nixed, and then some.

green jobs vs keystone xl pipeline jobs

Image Credit: Kema Keur (some rights reserved)

110,000 Green Jobs In The USA

E2’s green jobs report notes that green jobs are spread liberally around the country with no regard to political boundaries.

According to the report, “clean energy projects created jobs in every corner of the country,” with the top ten states consisting of California, North Carolina, Florida, Illinois, Connecticut, Arizona, New York, Michigan, Texas and Oregon.

Transportation projects were the single largest category nationwide, with the biggest contributor being a light rail project in Charlotte, NC that will create 7,000 jobs. Clean power, manufacturing and energy efficiency projects also made significant contributions to the total (a searchable database is here, btw).

According to the report, North Carolina and the red-leaning Southeast as a whole led the U.S. in green job announcements related to manufacturing, with about 13,700 new positions mainly in the fields of solar power, wind power and advanced vehicles.

On a gloomier note, the report also points out that the impressive total of 110,000 jobs could have been higher, but the failure of Congress to enact a timely extension of the wind tax credit (thanks to certain legislators) contributed to a steep drop-off in new job announcements for the clean power generation sector in the last quarter of 2012.

Extra Bang for Your Green Jobs Buck

For some further insights into the impact of green projects on the U.S. economy, check out the E2 monthly Clean Energy Jobs roundup. It illustrates something that’s built into the DNA of green jobs, namely, that putting people to work is only part of the benefit. The nature of green jobs is not simply to keep the same old machinery humming along but to create new value, by harvesting clean energy, turning an environmental liability into a new resource, or contributing to improved community well-being and public health.

Here’s some of the companies highlighted by E2 in its latest roundup dated March 5, 2013 roundup:

A company called GreenWhey Energy will build a facility in Minnesota to generate renewable methane gas from the wastewater produced by local food companies. The project involves 50-70 construction jobs and 13 permanent positions, and will produce enough energy to power 3,000 homes.

Siemens Energy will build a new wind turbine career center in Florida that will train hundreds of wind turbine workers and create 50 permanent jobs.

Strata Solar will build the biggest solar project in North Carolina, creating about 400 construction jobs.

Keystone XL Pipeline Jobs

Keeping last year’s E2 figure of 110,000 jobs in mind, let’s look at the official State Department job numbers for Keystone. The report, which was prepared by a consultant under contract with Keystone owner TransCanada, arrives at an average annual figure of 3,900 direct construction jobs over a one to two-year period, though if you throw in all related work including “induced effects” on local economies the figure jumps to 42,100 per year.

Now let’s compare the value-bang that U.S. citizens and businesses will get for Keystone’s best estimate of 42,100.

The Charlotte light rail project, for example, is only a fraction of the size in terms of job creation at 7,000 direct and indirect jobs. However, when the jobs are done, the light rail stays. The city anticipates that the line will average 24,500 weekday trips by 2035 with the expectation that it will help revitalize northeast Charlotte neighborhoods (an existing light rail system accomplished that in the city’s South End, so hopes are high).

With mass transportation providing an opportunity for economic growth in a major U.S. city without a consequent rise in traffic congestion and pollution, let’s call that a positive.

If you’ve already arrived at the figure of -0 for the Keystone project, let’s rewind a bit for the benefit of those new to the issue. The Keystone XL Pipeline is designed to bring tar sands oil from Canada down to Gulf Coast refineries for the export market, not for the U.S. market. It won’t make a dent in the price or availability of petroleum products in the U.S., and it will also leave a massive amount of byproduct in the form of petcoke (a sulfurous, rock-like substance similar to coal). That’s another “dirty fuel” headache to be marketed or disposed of, clogging transportation routes.

That explains the zero in terms of added value. The negative consists in factoring in the risk to hundreds of U.S. waterways that will be crossed by the pipeline along its way. Though the State Department report discusses risk mitigation, the reality is that pipelines leak, break and spill. In 2010 a pipeline owned by another Canadian company, Enbridge, broke and contaminated 40 miles along the Kalamazoo River.

As of January 2013 cleanup is still not complete and the company is resisting EPA’s orders to finish the job.

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Readers please note: As you can see from the comment thread, this post is being trolled. Feel free to chime in!  — T.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Ross

    James Hansen gave a great interview to CBC on the nonsense being spouted by a Canadian government minister. Video here

  • Otis11

    Eh, the only other comment that isn’t obviously a Troll deals with the issues of Job creation and added value. While I understand the concepts behind this topic I am far from qualified to debate it.

    If anyone is actually interested in a discussion rather than simply trolling, just reply to this (or @otis11:disqus) and I’d be more than happy to talk.

  • Altair IV

    Wow, the astroturfers really don’t like this article, do they?

  • jtintokyo

    Anti-XL activists, including this one, invariably use the argument that since most of the tar sands product transported from Alberta to the Gulf will be exported the pipeline will have no positive added value. However, XL’s construction will enable this oil to reach global markets at a significantly higher price than now. The current spread of Western Canada Select (WCS) to Western Texas Intermediate (WTI) is roughly $35 per barrel. However, this spread would probably drop to about $15 per barrel if this oil reaches Gulf Coast refiners. In other words, the value added per barrel for the pipeline would be about $20. Since roughly 800,000 barrels of WCS would daily be transported to the Gulf, the daily added value of the pipeline would be about $16,000,000 and the annual value would be nearly $6 billion. The Gulf refiners would create additional value from refining the product before it’s shipped to market. Let’s say that refining adds another $2 billion in value for a total of, say, $8 billion annually. This is increased economic activity for both Canada and the US.

    Now if $150,000 in added value supports one job, then the added value of XL would support an additional 53,000 jobs in the US and Canada. Note that my rough estimate is not that far off from the estimated impact of 42,100 jobs noted in this article suggesting where the noted figure came from. While the author appears befuddled as to how the pipeline could possibly create economic value, a relatively simple analysis clearly shows this is the case.

  • If you’re just going to make up numbers, why not add a couple more zeros and make it 100 million new jobs!??!!

  • The Truth

    Here’s the bio:

    “Tina is a career public information specialist and former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.”
    This is just what I expected from someone who writes articles as foolish as the one here. This women has no engineering or scientific background that I can find. She the typical type you see writing articles about something she knows nothing about. I’ll wager she has NEVER worked for a company that produces energy. I doubt she has any academic background whatsoever in the area of energy. I doubt she could even tell you the difference between power and energy.

  • The Truth

    I read the comments about this article before reading the article because I’m hugely in favor of Keystone. It should have been approved a long time ago. I also work for a company that has a small amount of resources investing in so called “green energy”. After studying the green energy part of the business, I can only conclude it’s a total fraud. There is no way a modern advanced industrial society like the US can count on “green energy/green jobs”. It’s a fast track to poverty. I went ahead and read the article and it was painful to get through. It’s the same thing as I’ve been reading/hearing in the MSM for the last 5-10 years. It’s interesting that most of the articles about green tech and green jobs are written by people who have little of no experience in the area of energy. But that shouldn’t surprise anyone. I’m now gonna do a bio on Tina Casey and see what her background is.

  • imapopulistnow

    The subsidies needed to create those green jobs will result in higher energy costs to consumers and business. This will ultimately reduce job creation by a much greater amount than the number of green jobs that are created. This is a simple fact of what happens in market based economies.

    The failure of the author to report this, let alone to even understand this dynamic, is the ultimate failure of current progressive ideology. Yes, we should invest large sums in the research and development of alternative energies and energy storage in order to hopefully identify alternatives that will be economically feasible in the future and that will thus flourish on their own without the need for subsidization. But to force uneconomic, subsidized alternatives on society will result in fewer jobs, lower living standards and higher levels of poverty. To advocate otherwise is disingenuous and deceitful.

    • Otis11

      Eh, yes and no. You overlook the fact that the subsidies that renewable energy gets is actually lower than the Tax incentives O&G companies get in the Master Limited Partnership tax-loophole alone. Also, we have to account for the health and environmental costs of both Fossil Fuels and Renewables. (Yes, while they are significantly smaller, Renewables do have an environmental impact)

      But as I consider myself an Independent with Libertarian tenancies I do agree with your underlying premise, but unfortunately not the final conclusion.

  • dorkyman

    I read some of her earlier articles and concluded that she was heavy into the Koolaid, so much so that there was little to be gained by reading future output. I took a chance on this one. Oops. More of the same. Won’t make that mistake again.

  • Frogwatch

    Can I also compare apples and oranges and then simply say oranges are better. What a load of garbage. She compares 7000 “Direct and indirect jobs” somehow to 3900 “Direct Construction Jobs” for Keystone ignoring all the jobs Keystone will produce after construction. Those “Direct and Indirect” jobs for the light rail are probably make work paper pushing jobs that already exist. If we use the same Criteria for Keystone, I could report Keystone will provide 500,000 new jobs.
    However, why not look at other major pipelines for the number of employees they have. Then add in all the pipeline service companies, then add in all the fast food joints that sell burgers to those workers.
    Ohhhh, she writes for SCAm, no wonder. Gawd, what a doofus.

  • Tautologist

    I have recently announced that I will be re-asembling Humpty Dumpty after his unfortunate fall. I expect to create 1,500 green jobs by doing this. Neither this announcement or the expectation of job creation have any grounding in reality, and a dis-service is done to the energy market (and consumers) when nebulous numbers are reported as fact.

  • jlmur

    We need somebody or somebodies to take it to the Greedy Lying Bastards.

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